Richard Johnson

I’m a painter. I’ve been painting since I was 6 years old.

Or at least that’s my earliest memory of painting. I don’t remember what the picture was. But I do remember the feeling it gave me. I remember my heart racing and a shiver going down my spine because I’d made the paint do what I wanted it to do. I still get that feeling now. It’s how I know I’ve got a painting right.


In the time since I was six, 43 years at the time of writing, my practice has developed. I paint almost every day. And colour has become important in my work just as much as the many different ways of applying paint that I use. I work in different mediums too, such as ink, graphite and natural pigments. I also make screen-based work. My paintings are the starting point but I do things with them using digital technology not possible with traditional methods.


My subject matter has evolved over time too. I can best describe it as a response to the way that people influence and are influenced by the natural environment. I’ve made paintings and drawings in response to issues such as the effects of coal mining on the natural environment or the pressure for land and the catastrophic effect that that can have on the people who inhabit it.


My current body of work has a working title of Blue Islands. The paintings are inspired by a trip I made to the Orkney Islands in Scotland. I was there with my brother who introduced me to some of the islands’ farmers. What struck me was the state of their mental health. Most visitors to Orkney are struck by the islands’ natural splendor and its ancient remains. But it was clear to me that life here for farmers is bruising. A hard and relentless working life in a remote and harsh environment clearly takes its toll on them. Yet their devotion to the land and their animals is remarkable. The Blue Island paintings are my response to this and I hope viewers will pick up on the fact that, just as is the case in many rural areas, life can be tough and mental health can suffer.


My work is in many private collections and is in some public collections too, including the National Coal Mining Museum, Barrowhill Roundhouse and Buxton Museum. In 2018 I was recognized by the Government for my work with the communities of former mining villages in North East Derbyshire. I have exhibited in venues across Yorkshire and the Midlands including Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries, Creswell Crags Heritage Centre, Sheffield Cathedral and Wentworth Woodhouse.


2880px_BuxtonMuseum20170503_3821 Blue Island, Ward Hill Blue Island Orkney

Middle: Blue Island, Ward Hill

Bottom: Blue Island, Orkney